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Category: The Leaders

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Allied Leaders of the 2nd Boer War
roberts.jpg (22413 bytes) Frederick Sleigh Roberts ("Bobs")
Field Marshall Lord Roberts of Kandahar, V.C., K.G., K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E.

After the disastrous actions in the Boer war in South Africa in December 1899 at Magersfontein, Stormberg and Colenso, where his only son was killed, Lord Roberts was sent out as Commander-in-Chief. 

He arrived at Cape Town on the 10th of January 1900, and after organizing his force, advanced with sound strategy on Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Tree State, and soon changed the aspect of affairs. 

The sieges of Kimberley and Ladysmith were raised, and the Boer General Cronje, flying towards the capital, was overtaken at Paardeberg and, after a fine defence, compelled to surrender, with 5000 men on the anniversary of Majuba Day, the 27th of February 1900. 

Roberts entered Bloemfontein on the 13th of March, and after six weeks' preparation, advanced on Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal. Mafeking was relieved on the 17th of May, and Pretoria occupied on the 5th of June. The two Boer states were annexed, and the war gradually assuming a guerrilla character, Roberts handed over the command to Lord Kitchener and returned to England to fill the office of Commander-in-Chief of the Army in succession to Lord Wolseley

He arrived in the Solent on the 2nd of January 1901, and the same day, had an audience of Queen Victoria, who handed him the insignia of the Order of the Garter. The next day he was received at Paddington by the Prince and Princess of Wales and drove in procession to Buckingham Palace, where he was entertained as the guest of the Queen. He again had an audience of the green at Osborne on the 14th of January on his elevation to an Earldom, the last audience given by Her Majesty before her death, which took place eight days later. When the German emperor came to London for the Queen's funeral, he decorated Lord Roberts with the Order of the Black Eagle. 

Earl Roberts received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and a grant of £100,000 for his services in South Africa. In 1905 he resigned his post on the Committee of National Defence, and devoted himself to attempting to rouse his countrymen to the necessity of cultivating rifle shooting and of adopting systematic general military training and service. As an author he is known by his Rise of Wellington (1895), and his Forty-One Years in India (1897), an auto­biography which has passed through numerous editions.

Above text from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1910-1911.

Later in World War 1 as

Earl Roberts (called "Bobs") 

he became Colonel In Chief of the Forces from Overseas (those "damned colonials"). 

He was much loved by British troops and respected by the Australians. 

Because of his Victoria Cross he was recognized by the Diggers as a 'fighting soldier'. 

How his pretty uniform went down with the Diggers is not recorded.


Commissioned in the Royal Engineers, in 1886 Kitchener was appointed governor of the British Red Sea territories and subsequently became commander in chief of the Egyptian army in 1892. 

In 1898 he crushed the separatist Sudanese forces of al-Mahdi in the Battle of Omdurman and then occupied the nearby city of Khartoum, where his success saw him ennobled in 1898.

In 1900 he became Commander in Chief of the Boer War, where he fought the guerrillas by burning farms and herding women and children into disease-ridden concentration camps.

These ruthless measures helped weaken resistance and bring British victory.

On returning to England in 1902 he was created Viscount Kitchener and was appointed commander in chief in India. In September 1911 he became the proconsul of Egypt, ruling there and in the Sudan until August 1914. 

When war broke out, Kitchener was on leave in England and reluctantly accepted an appointment to the cabinet as Secretary of State for War. Flying in the face of popular opinion, he warned that the conflict would be decided by Britain's last 1,000,000 men. He rapidly enlisted and trained vast numbers of volunteers for a succession of entirely new 'Kitchener armies', or "The New Army" as it was dubbed. By the end of 1915 he was convinced of the need for military conscription, but never publicly advocated it, deferring to Prime Minister Asquith's belief that it was not yet politically practicable.

In his recruitment of soldiers, planning of strategy and mobilisation of industry, Kitchener was handicapped by bureaucracy and his own dislike for teamwork and delegation. His cabinet associates did not share the public's worship of Kitchener and gradually relieved him of his responsibilities for industrial mobilisation and then strategy. He was killed in 1916 when HMS Hampshire was sunk by a German mine while taking him to Russia.

John French the son of Captain William French and Margaret Eccles, was born in Ripple, Kent in 1852. He joined the navy in 1866, but transferred to the army in 1874. He served with the 19th Hussars in the Sudan (1884-85) and was a cavalry commander in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1901). Appointed Chief of Staff of the British Army in 1911, French took command of the British Expeditionary Force sent to Europe in August 1914. Ironically, his sister, Charlotte Despard, was one of Britain's leading anti-war campaigners.

After Mons, French became very pessimistic about the outcome of the war and Lord Kitchener, Secretary for War, had to apply pressure in order to persuade him to take part in the Marne offensive. French resigned in December, 1915 and Sir Douglas Haig replaced him as leader of the BEF. French, as commander of the British home forces, was responsible for dealing with the Easter Rising in 1916. 
Rewarded with the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1918-1921), French was granted £50,000 by the British government when he retired. Sir John French died in 1925.
Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Ricardo Chief of Staff, Queensland Mounted Infantry, Pretoria 31st July, 1900.

Percy came from a county family with a military heritage. He not only led the First Contingent of the Queensland Mounted Infantry but also became one of Australia's more notable Military figures of his time.

No evidence has been found to date that he ever actually attended any Military College in England prior to his immigration to Australia (between 1874 and 1884 where he is first located in 'Sydney'), although there is a 'Helmet' plume in the Regimental Museum, Brisbane, that purports to be from his service in the 'Canadian 

Military Forces' (the 'Royal Horse Artillery') and study at the 'Military College', Kingston, Ontario (Canada) [although the article in 1900 printed by the Alcazar Press - "Queensland, 1900, A Narrative of her past" states otherwise] 

Also see Colonel Percy Ralph Ricadro, C.B. "The Father of QMI"

It is also noted in the 'Australian Dictionary of Biography - Vol. 11, (p.360)' that he served in the 'Canadian Artillery'. He is also alleged to have attended the Canadian Military College in 1871 but this appears incorrect at the CMC was not in existence until 1876.

Percy was, if anything, a colourful character. He was notable for a variety of reasons including - his being fined £1 for 'Obscene Language' following the 'Shearers Strike' in 1891 (he declined to defend against it) where he commanded the First Detachment of Mounted Infantry sent to Clermont after which his restraint was commended by William Hamilton (but the labour movement resented his apparent snobbish attitude, his exhortation to his volunteers 'to protect their hearths and homes' from the strikers) and again in 1894, and the 'Libel Suit' against the 'Brisbane Newspaper Corporation' in 1901 (in which fellow officer Major Harry Chauvel - Later General 'Sir Harry' Chauvel testified).

Very little is known of his early years apart from 'Family Stories' which include his schooling at Cheltenham, and his attendance at the 'Royal Agricultural College' at Cirencester in England, where he is said to have studied 'Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture and Veterinary Surgery'. Unfortunately the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) does not have records of students for this period, however the subjects listed were available at that time. He is purported to have travelled extensively following his graduation from the RAC in 1874, visiting Europe, North Africa, the Indian Sub-Continent and the USA before arriving in Australia. If he came to Australia via the USA and Canada, there is the possibility that he may have seen service there, but there is no evidence that he was in any army prior to 1884.

He leased 'Waterview' Station, on the Herbert River and from 1879, managed and partly owned 'Franklyn Vale' (with Henry Mort), near Laidley, until defeated by drought.

A business associate of 'Sir Arthur Palmer' and 'Sir Thomas McIlwraith' , he was secretary of the Queensland Turf Club but, from all accounts he was accused of 'tactlessness' and resigned in 1885, to become secretary of the Queensland Ice & Freezing Co.

In 1884, Percy, who by this time had married Annabella Lyall, moved his family to 'Blackall St. Brisbane and took up the position of Manager of the Brisbane Ice Works to which he eventually became Managing Director. It was at this time, while managing the Ice Works that he took up his future trade of soldiering.

His Military experience in Queensland, Australia, started in 1885 and continued up to his death in 1907, and is well documented, with all his appointments and promotions recorded in the Queensland Government Gazette.

The Strike Breakers

The Shearer's Strike of 1891 was the first opportunity for most Queensland soldiers to see any sort of extended service. The 'Moreton Mounted Infantry' was mobilised for service on the 21st February 1891 in aid of the civil powers to prevent Strikers from disrupting the peace. Within 24 hours Percy and his men had sailed from Brisbane for Rockhampton. They entrained for Clermont, where local graziers had agreed to provide horses for the troops. While in the area they were used as escorts to Strike Breakers and guards for woolsheds, trains, public buildings and Strike Breakers camps. In late April the centre of the strike had moved with the season and the troops set off overland from Clermont to Charleville.

Percy Ricardo avoided the long wet ride by travelling by train to Rockhampton, ship to Brisbane and train to Charleville. It was while he was in Brisbane that he was charged with the use of offensive language and rather than defend the charge he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of £5.00

The crisis finally resolved when the strikers ran out of money and had to return to work, the Queensland Defence force however, had learnt a substantial deal about operating for extended periods in remote areas, horse care and soldiering.

Discipline had shown it's worth with no loss of life caused by military action and the failure of systems and equipment enabled the force to make many changes of a positive nature.

In December 1891, Major Percy Ricardo was transferred from the 'Moreton Mounted Infantry' to the 'Queensland Defence Department Head Quarters' as 'Staff Officer for Mounted Infantry' (SOMI), a position that would result in his overseeing in 1897 the reorganisation of the small local units into the State Wide 'Queensland Mounted Infantry'.

Percy Ricardo returned to England twice during his career. From 23 May 1885 to 18 May 1886 he was granted leave from Moreton Mounted Infantry to return to England. In 1897 he was Commander in charge of the Queen Victoria 'Diamond Jubilee' contingent from the Queensland Defence Department (both these events are recorded in official documents). It is believed that during his leave of absence he took the opportunity to work with mounted troops in England to further his education.

Percy Ralph Ricardo died on 4 June 1907, in Melbourne after he suffered a fractured skull when he was thrown by a horse onto a tree stump whilst attending the 'Melbourne Hounds' near Lyndhurst in Victoria. His funeral was of an Anglican Service and his favourite Charger (Carnage) led the cortege to his gravesite. Reports of his death were in the 'Melbourne Age' - June 1907, and the 'Queenslander' - 8 June 1907 (p.16) Newspapers. These two obituaries (the Age and The Argus) in June 1907 are interesting in contrast, one simple and the other very prosaic, if not very accurate (Death certificate Registration No. 5561/1907). The report of his death in the 'Brisbane Courier' (June 5, 1907) was a simple four lines after the heading 'FATAL RESULT OF AN ACCIDENT'.


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